Salons 2012

Unpatriotic History of the Second World War 

Date: Tuesday 27 November 2012

Venue: Carriageworks Theatre, Millennium Room

Speaker: James Heartfield

Sixty million people died in the Second World War, and still they tell us it was 'the People's War'. The official history of the Second World War is the victor's history. Unpatriotic History of the Second World War is the history of the Second World War without the patriotic whitewash.

The Second World War was not fought to stop fascism, or to liberate Europe. This book shows that it was a war between imperialist powers to decide which among them would rule over the world, a division of the spoils of empire, and an iron cage for working people, forced to serve the war production drive.

In Unpatriotic History of the Second World War James Heartfield explains why the Great Powers fought most of their war not in their own countries, but in colonies in North Africa, in the Far East and in Germany's hoped-for empire in the East. James looks at how unofficial strikes, partisans in Europe and Asia, and soldiers' mutinies came close to ending the war. He argues the Allies invaded Europe and the Far East to save the system of capitalism from being overthrown. 

Autism and Human Variation

Date: 22 October 2012

Venue: White Cloth Gallery, Leeds

Speaker: Stuart Murray

Critical Panel: Richard Exley and Alison Stansfield 

Part of Love Arts Leeds Festival 2012 

Autism is one of the most discussed medical conditions in contemporary society. It is also one of the most misunderstood. For many, it is a disability that poses serious difficulties in engaging with the world. For others, it is a welcome indication of the wide variation inherent in the human condition. Biomedical research that aims to discover the genetic and neurological basis of autism may lead to new forms of treatment, but is treating autism appropriate? Vast sums of money are being invested to find a 'cure' for autism, but some autistic people believe that the results of such research could be tantamount to genocide. In an era of genetic advances and prenatal screening, but also of disability rights and the acceptance of difference, what do we think we know about autism? Do we see it as part of our collective future, or as a condition we would rather be without? 

Putting Exams to the Test

Date: Monday 1 October 2012

Venue: White Cloth Gallery, Leeds

Speakers: Dennis HayesAudrey OslerValerie Farnsworth 

A satellite event for the Battle of Ideas 2012 festival of debate 

Every year we see an increase in the number of pupils achieving top grades in GCSEs and A-levels. And every year this sparks a row about standards in education. While some argue that improving results show pupils are getting smarter and working harder, others raise questions about the quality of examinations and school curricula. Many educationalists and commentators argue we have seen a long and steady dumbing-down in educational standards, in which traditional subjects have lost rigour, to be replaced by modular courses with multiple re-sits or by vocational qualifications; while exam boards have been accused of being complicit in competing to offer easier courses, and schools in shopping round for exams that will improve their league table results.

To tackle what he sees as this 'culture of competitive dumbing-down', education secretary Michael Gove plans to replace GCSEs in England from 2014 with a 'tougher' O-level style system alongside a simpler exam for less academic teenagers, like the old CSE. This has provoked charges of 'elitism' and re-creating a 'two-tier' education system in which poorer students will be fobbed-off with a second class education. Others argue this shows ignorance of the current exam system within which those deemed less capable are already directed down the path of lower level GCSEs and NVQs. In addition, many private schools already opt for the International GCE (comparable to the old O-level), while increasing numbers of state schools and sixth-form colleges are turning to a baccalaureate system, also favoured by Gove, as a 'stable' and 'safer alternative' to grade inflation with A-levels.

So, would the return to 'O' levels create a two-tier and elitist system in education that confines many to the scrapheap? Or is it a step in the right direction to improving academic standards for all? What purpose do exams serve anyway? Are they the best way to assess pupils’ abilities, and an important part of what education should be about? Or do they discriminate unfairly against less academic pupils?

Surviving Identity: Vulnerability and the Psychology of Recognition

Date: Monday 16 July 2012

Venue: The Carriageworks, Room 5

Speaker: Ken McLaughlin

Critical Panel: Kate Brown & Andrea Hollomotz

Today, political claims are increasingly made on the basis of experienced trauma and inherent vulnerability, as evidenced in the growing number of people who identify as a "survivor" of one thing or another, and also in the way in which much political discourse and social policy assumes the vulnerability of the population. In Surviving Identity, Ken McLaughlin discusses these developments in relation to the changing focus of social movements, from concerns with economic redistribution, towards campaigns for cultural recognition. As a result of this, the experience of trauma and psychological vulnerability has become a dominant paradigm within which both personal and political grievances are expressed.

Combining the psychological, social, and political aspects of the expression of individual distress and political dissent, this book provides a unique analysis of how concepts such as "vulnerability" and "trauma" have become institutionalised within politics and society. It also offers a critical appraisal of the political and personal implications of these developments, and in addition, shows how the institutionalisation of the survivor identity represents a diminished view of the human subject and our capacity to achieve progressive political and individual change.

Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity 

Date: Wednesday 23 May 2012

Venue: Millennium Room, Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds

Speaker: Ray Tallis 

In a devastating critique Raymond Tallis exposes the exaggerated claims made for the ability of neuroscience and evolutionary theory to explain human consciousness, behaviour, culture and society.

While readily acknowledging the progress neuroscience has made in helping us understand how the brain works, Tallis directs his guns at neuroscience’s dark companion - Neuromania, as he describes it - the belief that brain activity is not merely a necessary but a sufficient condition for human consciousness and that consequently our everyday behaviour can be entirely understood in neural terms.

With the formidable acuity and precision of both clinician and philosopher, Tallis dismantles the idea that "we are our brains", which has given rise to a plethora of neuro-prefixed pseudo-disciplines laying claim to explain everything from art and literature to criminality and religious belief, and shows it to be confused and fallacious, and an abuse of the prestige of science, one that sidesteps a whole range of mind-body problems. The belief that human beings can be understood essentially in biological terms is a serious obstacle, argues Tallis, to clear thinking about what human beings are and what they might become. We are, shows Tallis, infinitely more interesting and complex than we appear in the mirror of biologism.

What Does the Leveson Inquiry Mean for Press Freedom?

Date: Tuesday 17 April 2012

Venue: The Carriageworks, Millennium Room

Speakers: Catherine O’ConnorBill Carmichael

The revelations in 2011 that the News of the World had hacked the phones of up to 3,000 celebrities, and in particular murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s voicemail, sparked a major outcry about British press standards; leading prime minister David Cameron to set up the Leveson Inquiry into the ‘culture, practice and ethics’ of the UK press, with a view to a ‘more effective and regulatory regime’.

While initial investigations focused on the Murdoch-owned ‘red tops’, subsequent revelations have incriminated almost the entire British press (along with the police and politicians) in illegal or unethical practices in obtaining stories; raising questions about the effectiveness of existing self-regulation in reining in what some refer to as an increasingly ‘feral’ press. Even within the newspaper industry, many agree that a tougher independent body is needed, underpinned by legislation if necessary to add ‘real bite’. Amongst suggestions have been fining newspapers that break the code of practice and the licensing of journalists similar to the medical profession.

However, while some may see the Leveson Inquiry as a positive step towards ‘cleaning up’ tabloid practices, others see it as a ‘slippery slope towards government control of the press’. Newspapers are there ‘to speak truth to power’, not to be dictated to by the powerful, and that often involves underhand methods to find out what they don’t want us to know. Any proposals for tougher regulations would affect all investigative journalism and the future of a free press itself, and must be vehemently resisted.

Does ‘Hackgate’ reveal something rotten at the heart of the British press? Or has understandable disgust over the likes of the Dowler case been used to justify a crackdown on journalism by the very people it is supposed to hold to account? Is tougher self-regulation the answer to raising press standards? Or does that risk delivering a tamer and more compliant media? What does the Leveson Inquiry mean for the future of press freedom in the UK?

Can Cameron Fix ‘Troubled Families’?

Date: Wednesday 15 February 2012

Venue: Carriageworks Theatre, Room 1

Speakers: Jennie Bristow & Nick Frost

Many of those who took part in the riots that shook London and other English cities in August 2011 were children and young teenagers. For Prime Minster David Cameron and many opinion-formers, the blame lies with a lack of parental responsibility. “The question people asked over and over again”, Cameron asserted, “was ‘where are the parents?’” — the implication being that parents weren’t at home, didn’t care, or had lost control. The answer for the Government, therefore, is intervention into the 120,000 most “troubled families”, who, it is claimed, are responsible for terrorising neighbourhoods and cost the state an estimated £9bn a year of extra spending on the NHS, policing and social services.

To tackle this problem, the government has set up a Troubled Families Unit, headed by New Labour’s former ‘respect tsar’ Louise Casey. This includes plans for a network of ‘troubleshooters’ who will act as a single point of call to help ‘empower’ families to “take control of their lives”, drawing-up action plans for basics tasks such as ensuring children arrive at school on time and are fed, and helping parents on to work programmes. Families that refuse to co-operate could face benefit sanctions, the removal of their children from their care, eviction from their homes, or ASBOs.

Cameron’s plans synchronise existing family intervention strategies begun under the previous New Labour government, designed to prevent young people from becoming criminals. However, not only did these strategies fail to prevent young people from rioting, but some question whether the intrusion of officialdom into the family may be partly responsible for the inability of many parents to control the behaviour of their children in the first place: discouraging parents from disciplining their children and often inadvertently undermining parental authority. In addition, adults more generally have become reluctant, or even afraid, to intervene in instances of youthful anti-social behaviour. And when even the police stand back and allow youth to loot and burn down their own neighbourhoods, isn’t it disingenuous for the government to simply assign the blame to poor parenting?

Others think Cameron’s response to the riots is not so much harmful as pointless. For them, the coalition is in denial of the real problems, which are mainly of a wider socio-economic nature: unemployment, police brutality, and racism.

So have family intervention policies been harmful, useless, or not gone far enough? And will a new network of ‘troubleshooters’ help restore parental responsibility or make matters even worse?



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